Trump Jr.: I Met With Russian Lawyer Out Of My Interest In Clinton’s ‘Fitness’

Carolyn Kaster/AP

Update 1:47 p.m.: CNBC reporter Christina Wilkie tweeted the full statement out, which is embedded at the bottom of the post. The story has also been updated with more from the statement.

Donald Trump Jr., in a statement offered with his closed-door interview Thursday with the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that his decision to participate in a June 2016 meeting with Kremlin-affiliated officials was made during an “exhausting, all-encompassing” campaign experience where he “fielded dozens, if not hundreds, of emails and phone calls,” according to the New York Times, which obtained a copy of the statement.

“To the extent they had information concerning the fitness, character or qualifications of a presidential candidate, I believed that I should at least hear them out,” the statement said, according to report.

Trump Jr. said in the statement that he would have consulted “with counsel to make an informed decision as to whether to give it further consideration,” depending on the information he was given.

“As it later turned out, my skepticism was justified. The meeting provided no meaningful information and turned out not to be about what had been represented,” Trump Jr. said in his statement, according to the Times.

He said that at the meeting, the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya “began telling the group very generally something about individuals connected to Russia supporting or funding Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton or the Democratic National Committee.” According to the statement, Trump Jr. had trouble understanding what she was saying, and the conversation pivoted to adoption policies for Russian children after she was asked to be more specific.

Trump Jr. arrived at the Capitol Thursday morning, avoiding reporters, to speak with Senate Judiciary staff and some committee senators who said they planned on stopping by the interview.

The President’s son became of particular interest to the committee — one of four congressional committees probing Russian influence in the 2016 campaign — after reports this summer that he, then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, and the President’s son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner took a meeting with a Russian lawyer and other figures at Trump Tower not long after Trump won the Republican presidential nomination.

Emails leading up to the meeting, reported on by the New York Times and released by Trump Jr., showed Rob Goldstone, a music promoter who has long been in Trump’s orbit, promising “documents and information that would incriminate Hillary [Clinton] and her dealings with Russia” in the meeting.

“Since I had no additional information to validate what Rob was saying, I did not quite know what to make of his email. I had no way to gauge the reliability, credibility or accuracy of any of the things he was saying,” Trump Jr. said in his statement Thursday.

He said that he had asked Goldstone in advance for the names of the attendees, but never received them. Nonetheless, Trump Jr. invited Manafort and Kushner to the meeting, “but told them none of the substance or who was going to be there, since I did not know myself,” according to his statement.

As for his response — “I love it” — to Goldstone’s email, Trump Jr. said Thursday, “it  was simply a colloquial way of saying that I appreciated Rob’s gesture.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tierney Sneed is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked for U.S. News and World Report. She grew up in Florida and attended Georgetown University.
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